On Wednesday night I was privileged to interview a lovely lady named Jacqueline Swanson, who had many fascinating things to say about being a Native American in the Pacific Northwest. Jackie is a descendant of Cheshiahud, one of the very last Duwamish Indians to live on Lake Union in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In an interview that lasted well over an hour, Jackie slowly unraveled the tale of how she learned about her family’s history and eventually discovered that one of Seattle’s most famous Natives, Cheshiahud, was among her ancestors.
Jackie describes Cheshiahud as a survivor who figured out creative ways to remain near his ancestral lands when most of his tribe had been banished to reservations.
Although another of her ancestors fought alongside Chief Leschi against White settlers in the Battle for Seattle in 1856, Jackie says she also proud of her ancestors who befriended settlers like David Denny and worked with them to build Seattle.
“I feel like they approached things from a survival standpoint, that they could see into the future and they knew that, yes, they could go down fighting, but at the same time, there wouldn’t be any people to follow them.”
Jackie affectionately recounts how she first stood with anthropologist Jay Miller at Cheshiahud’s grave in Evergreen-Washelli Cemetary. Cheshiahud was buried here – not far from the grave of a former Mayor – at David Denny’s insistence, despite the fact that Indians were not allowed burial in Seattle cemeteries until the 1960s. Jackie’s eyes glowed brightly as she described this example of friendship triumphing over prejudice.
I am presently transcribing Jackie’s interview in preparation for producing a video about Cheshiahud to be featured in a new chapter of my Lake Union website. I need to gather additional footage for this video, so you can be sure I will be visiting Evergreen Cemetery soon.
My website is coming along, with one chapter on Gasworks Park nearly complete and a chapter about Boat Shops well under way. Please visit the website at http://web.me.com/vaunraymond/Lakeunion/Home.html